Saturday, June 27, 2009

TV - What Is Viewed?

Based upon the research that I discussed last week, I think that we can agree that parents need to monitor the TV programs that are being watched by our children. In order to protect our kids, answer the following questions:

a) Is it because the commercial reception in your home is poor?

b) Is it because you are an avid sports fan and you just have to have ESPN and other such channels?

c) Are you a fan of old movies who enjoys watching AMC?

d) Do you feel that you need to watch the History Channel, or FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, etc.?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then continue on with your Cable/Satellite TV boxes at home. However, you need to remember that your cable box is also filled with MTV, VH-1, E!, BET, and other channels that regularly feature graphic SEX messages, images, and conversations. Based upon informal research, numerous conversations with parents, and practical thinking, my Cable/Satellite TV suggestions are as follows:

1) Get a box that allows you to control the channels that enter your home and then don’t allow any channel that regularly or even occasionally sends the SEX message into your home. These channels not only include MTV, VH-1, BET, E!, but also the pay channels, including HBO, Showtime, Playboy (hopefully, you had already thought to not have that last one in your home with children!), etc. Also, carefully monitor the shows on the other stations as well, as some of them often contain SEX talk and scenes on an intermittent basis.

I try to never allow my kids to watch a show alone or without my prior knowledge on its content. While this might seem to be a bit cumbersome, these are my kids and I will do anything to prevent them from getting the addictive SEX message. As I indicated before, once your kids get the addictive SEX message embedded into their brains, it can do significant damage to their lives, including, but not limited to problems with their family, homework, friends, and relationships with the opposite sex.


2) Do not allow Cable/Satellite TV to come in to your home at all! After all, did you have Cable/Satellite TV when you were a kid? As you are the age of a middle school parent, I am sure that the answer is no (Cable TV didn’t get really big until the early to mid 1980’s). Did you feel deprived? Were you less of a person because you did not have Cable/Satellite TV? Of course, the answer to both questions is also “no”. Clearly, Cable/Satellite TV is not tied to the success of a person, professionally, personally, or parentally! Therefore, if you are unable to lock the SEX-related channels, or if you are unable to monitor your child’s TV viewing, GET RID OF THE CABLE/SATELLITE TV!! Your kids will be infinitely better off and they won’t suffer a from a deprivation malady later in life!

By getting rid of the Cable/Satellite TV in your home, you will be allowing your kids the freedom to get more exercise, spend more time with friends and developing relationships, and you will be taking a giant step toward preventing your children from developing SEX addiction that is permeating the youth of our society.

Yes, let's monitor what our kids watch on TV and keep them safe!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, June 20, 2009

TV = Pregnancy? - OUCH!!

A significant portion of my interviews with kids and overhearing kids’ conversations with one another have involved television and movie viewing habits. In nearly 100% of the cases, the kids who had watched sexually explicit television shows and movies are the same kids who got involved with sexual activity during their adolescent years.

In an Associated Press article by Lindsey Tanner, recent research from the Rand Corporation indicates that, “Pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of TV with sexual dialogue and behavior than among those who have tamer viewing tastes”. As you might have guessed, “Sex in the City”, “Friends”, and “That 70’s Show”, staples among some adolescents, were some of the shows that were used in the research.

Further, according to the research, “Teens who watched the raciest shows were twice as likely to become pregnant over the next three years as those who watched few such programs”. Sure to illicit further chagrin from parents, the report also indicated that, “Shows that highlight only the positive aspects of sexual behavior without the risks can lead teens to have unprotected sex before they're ready to make responsible and informed decisions. Pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched such shows regularly, compared with teens who said they hardly ever saw them. There were more pregnancies among the oldest teens interviewed, but the rate of pregnancy remained consistent across all age groups among those who watched the racy programs”.

The lead researcher for the project, Behavioral Scientist Anita Chandra, said TV-watching was strongly connected with teen pregnancy even when other factors were considered, including grades, family structure and parents' education level.

Tanner reported that Bill Albert, chief program officer at the nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, praised the study and said it "catches up with common sense. Media helps shape the social script for teenagers. Most parents know that. This is just good research to confirm that," Albert said.

Sadly, Tanner wrote that Psychologist David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, cited data suggesting only about 19 percent of American teens say they can talk openly with a trusted adult about sex. “With many schools not offering sex education, that leaves the media to serve as a sex educator," he said. "For a kid who no one's talking to about sex, and then he watches sitcoms on TV where sex is presented as this is what the cool people do, the outcome is obvious," Walsh said. OUCH!!

So, what are your kids watching? What messages are they receiving? Do your kids have extended hours with a television and videos or Cable TV? I will address these issues next week. Stay tuned and … get your kids away from that television!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hide The Alcohol!!

It has been reported that our kids develop all types of beliefs about alcohol and, of course, many are correct, while others are distorted. Some of these beliefs are brought about by information provided by friends, some are formed by witnessing family members drink, and others are brought about by the media. After all, while watching a football game, there are multiple “cool” guys and gals who drink their way through commercials, appearing to have tons of fun along the way!

Unfortunately, few kids are equipped with all of the necessary facts about alcohol and its effects. As such, kids are likely to make decisions on faulty information. Faulty beliefs serve to make adolescent drinking more likely, as they typically exaggerate the positives and minimize the negatives. It is very important for you to provide your middle school or high school son or daughter with thorough and accurate information about alcohol.

Of course, being children of the 60’s and 70’s, we would like to believe that we already have the necessary facts and experience to teach our kids about alcohol (after all, who didn’t gain a tremendous education through seeing their high school acquaintances, or even themselves, engage in drinking?), but even adults have been known to carry some misguided notions on this topic. We must learn the facts about what a depressant is and how alcohol is metabolized, along with its immediate and long term effects. Helping your kids know the facts, as opposed to the myths, will enable them to make informed decisions about alcohol.

Below are some of the common misnomers with accompanying facts that adolescents have regarding alcohol. These are worth learning and then sharing with your child!

* "Alcohol improves my mood, alters my mental state." Though it is true that small amounts of alcohol reduce "self-focused attention", and that this effect, in turn, can reduce stress in some people, heavy drinking typically leads to unpredictable and uncontrollable emotions. If someone is very angry and drinks to relax, it is possible that the person might become even angrier --and all of the other undesirable behaviors which typically follow.

* "Alcohol makes me perform better." Though you may feel like you are performing better, as alcohol relaxes, heavy drinking has a detrimental effect on judgment, coordination and reaction time. Any amount of alcohol in your blood leads to impairment in driving. Alcohol, due to the relaxing effects and the direct lessened effects on self-monitoring, can lead to false confidence which can have deadly consequences if unchecked.

* "Alcohol feels great!" The short-term effects of alcohol are often remembered at the expense of long-term effects. The short-term effects are usually pleasurable - the long-term effects negative. It is helpful for adolescents to learn how to bring these potential negative effects to mind when deciding whether to drink or not. They include hangovers, interference with restorative sleep, foolish and or dangerous behavior, legal trouble, potentially deadly outcomes if driving occurs, impulsive sexual behavior, long term health problems.

* "Alcohol helps me socialize better." By way of its effects on reducing self-focused attention, many feel less uncomfortable around people when drinking. Unfortunately, this effect is brief and decreases if more than a small amount of alcohol is consumed. The social effects which then emerge vary from person to person, but include: obnoxiousness, aggressiveness, withdrawal, and impulsiveness.

* "If I drink coffee or eat something it will sober me up." Once alcohol is in your bloodstream, there is nothing you can eat or drink to hasten metabolism. Certain other chemicals, like caffeine, can "open your eyes," but you are just as impaired.

As my own father often said, “Read em’ and weep”. But, after reading through all of the myths that some kids carry with regard to alcohol, be sure to talk to your kids and share these myths, then share the facts, …… then hide the alcohol!

It has been my experience that many adolescents will experiment with alcohol when it is available and when their parents are not home or are sleeping. Again, educate your child and then remove the temptation! Hang in there!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Your Child's Basic Needs

As you might have guessed, after actively interacting with children for over 25 years, I have a plethora of anecdotal stories that elicit humorous, interesting, sad, exhilarating, depressing, and uplifting emotions.

One of the saddest group of stories involves lack of parental involvement in a child’s life. Boys and girls look to their parents for nurturing, support (emotional and financial), love, attention, and the general feeling that there is somebody in world to take care of them.

During one particular school day, the head of the Cafeteria, Mary, brought a student to me during the lunch period. According to Mary, the student, a 7th grade boy named Derrick, did not have lunch money, his pre-paid account had been exhausted, he did not bring food from home, and he was refusing to eat the free sandwich that was always offered to students in his situation.

Inexplicably, Derrick seemed to be quite angry about the free sandwich. I stated his options to him: Eat the free sandwich or call home, as I did not want him to continue with his day and the after-school basketball practice on an empty stomach. Derrick agreed to call his dad.

I escorted Derrick to my office to use my telephone. Although I could not hear his dad’s end of the conversation, I did hear Derrick speak the following words: “No, it’s your fault, because you wouldn’t get out of bed to give me the money”, “I kept asking you, but you just stayed in bed”, “You do this to me all the time”, “Well, you’re not the one who has to stay at school until 6:00 without eating”, “You know what? …. No, you’re the loser”. Derrick then hung up the phone.

Well, as you might have guessed, this situation quickly transformed from a story about a free sandwich into a story that contained several elements. Derrick and I sat down at my office table. After I chastised him for speaking to his father in such disrespectful tones, I asked Derrick to explain his actions.

Through tears, he explained that to me that his dad drinks a lot, gets home most nights long after Derrick goes to bed, sleeps all day, goes out to eat in the afternoon, and then goes to work. Derrick further explained that his mother moved out a few years ago and that, because of his dad’s work and party schedule, he seldom gets to spend any time with his dad.

In short, Derrick’s dad had been given full responsibility for his son’s life. To put it mildly, Derrick’s dad had failed at every turn. After a number of years of neglectful treatment, Derrick had come to believe that his father did not love him, did not take care of his basic needs, and certainly did not support him.

I quickly made a 2-tier plan: The first step was to make sure that Derrick ate that day. I offered him a candy bar, BUT he had to eat the free sandwich first. He quickly agreed to that plan! As you might have guessed, Derrick thought that this would be a good plan for every future day, as well! So, yes, we made sure that we always had a supply of candy bars for Derrick AFTER he ate the sandwich each day!

The second step was to speak with his dad at a future basketball game about the need to take care of his son’s basis needs (I figured that I could talk to him about everything else later). However, as you might have guessed, Derrick’s dad never showed up for one of his son’s games. So, the second step eventually involved telephone calls, home visits, and the involvement of a team of people from the school and other governmental systems. Eventually, Derrick’s father became more involved with his son’s life (he even came to a basketball game!!), but the wasted years could never be recovered.

So the big questions are as follows:

1) Do you take care of your child’s basic needs every single day (love, support, nurturing, etc.)? Your child relies on you to provide for their health, safety, and well-being. In most cases, children do not have resources to provide for themselves. If Derrick had not become angry over the free sandwich, we never would have known of his plight and the school would not have stepped in to intervene. How many previous days did Derrick silently suffer before becoming he became angry on that day?

2) Does your child feel secure in this world with the knowledge that you will always be there to provide for his/her needs including clothing, food, shelter, etc.?

3) Do you know of a child in Derrick’s situation, in which it appears as though parents are not taking care of their children? If so, please report this information to your local school, so that they can quickly intervene and get the necessary help for the child!

Yes, as I indicated, in the world of dealing with children, there are many sad stories like Derrick’s. There are also some uplifting stories (the end of Derrick’s story was certainly better than the beginning!). I’ll provide one of those in August.

Hang in there and take excellent care of your kids!

Paul W. Reeves